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Statewide News

Price gouging statutes in effect for 18 counties after emergency declared

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Oklahomans should be wary of criminals who stream into communities to target homes and businesses damaged by the recent tornadoes in the Tulsa area and wildfires in western Oklahoma.

Oklahomans should be mindful of scams involving cleanup, removal, home repair, and tree trimming, as well as price gouging after disasters. Oklahoma’s price gouging statute prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent in the price of most goods and services during a state of emergency and for 30 days thereafter, the attorney general said. The act additionally is in effect for another 180 days for prices to repairs, remodeling and construction. For tips to avoid fraud in the wake of disaster, please download a copy of the AG's Disaster Scam Prevention Packet below.

"After disasters, Oklahomans need to be cautious, patient, and particularly wary of criminals known as ‘travelers’ who target disaster-stricken communities to take advantage of those harmed by tornadoes, fires or other disasters.” Attorney General Pruitt said. “Whether it is travelers’ scams or price-gouging from unscrupulous businesses, my office will work to ensure that home and business owners have the essential information needed to protect themselves from further harm. If anyone thinks they have been scammed, they should contact my office immediately so we can take appropriate action."

Attorney General Pruitt cautioned Oklahomans to be wary of repair services and contractors who:

Solicit for work door-to-door;
Offer discounts for finding other customers;
“Just happen to have” materials left over from a previous job;
Accept only cash payments;
Pressure you for an immediate decision;
Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front.
Attorney General Pruitt suggests the following tips for choosing a proper contractor or repair service:

Ask for referrals from people you trust;
Try to do business with local companies;
Request to see proof of certification and insurance;
Check out the repair service with the AG’s Consumer Protection Unit, the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board, and the Better Business Bureau;
Ask for customer references;
Get written estimates from several companies;
Don’t do business without a written contract;
Get all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing;
Agree on start and completion dates, and have them in the contract.
Oklahoma’s Emergency Price Stabilization Act is now in effect for 18 Oklahoma counties after Gov. Mary Fallin recently declared states of emergency due to varying issues:

Wildfires and drought conditions (March 28): Woods.
Tornadoes and severe storms (April 1): Craig, Mayes, Nowata, Osage, Rogers, Tulsa and Washington.
Wildfires and critical fire conditions (April 6): Alfalfa, Blaine, Creek, Dewey, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Logan, Major and Woodward.
Oklahomans who suspect fraud related to disaster cleanup or repairs, or who experience price gouging, should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at (405) 521-2029 or (918) 581-2885.

Click here for a copy of the AG's Disaster Scam Prevention Packet.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced that 10 Oklahoma counties may now receive disaster assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as a result of the winter storm and flooding that began December 26.

The designation provides SBA low-interest disaster loans for homeowners and business owners in Cherokee, Mayes and Ottawa counties to replace any property damaged by the storm that was not covered by insurance or other assistance programs. The loan program is also available to assist businesses that sustained economic injury due to the storm.

Under SBA rules, the contiguous counties of Adair, Craig, Delaware, Muskogee, Rogers, Sequoyah and Wagoner are also eligible for assistance.

The state requested the SBA declaration on March 23 after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the governor’s appeal for individual assistance. Two counties included in the governor’s request, Pushmataha and McCurtain, were not approved for the SBA declaration.

RogerThompsonFarmBureau

Rep. Roger Thompson receives his 2015 Oklahoma Farm Bureau Champion Award from OKFB’s District Four Director Jimmy Wayne Kinder at the organization’s Legislative Conference March 7.

Rep. Roger Thompson is one of 12 state leaders and legislators presented with the 2015 Oklahoma Farm Bureau Champion Award at the organization’s Legislative Conference March 7.

Thompson was chosen for his outstanding support of Oklahoma farmers and ranchers during the 2015 legislative session, including State Question 777, or the Right to Farm.

“As the state’s largest general farm organization, Oklahoma Farm Bureau is dedicated to preserving the livelihood of Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers,” said Tom Buchanan, OKFB president. “We’re honored to recognize these state leaders for their support of agriculture in 2015.”

Eleven other state leaders received the award including: Attorney General Scott Pruitt; Rep. Scott Biggs, Chickasha; Rep. James Leewright, Bristow; Rep. Charles McCall, Atoka; Rep. Tom Newell, Seminole; Rep. Charles Ortega, Altus; Sen. Don Barrington, Lawton; Sen. Brian Bingman, Sapulpa; Sen. Ron Justice, Chickasha; Sen. Mike Schulz, Altus; and Sen. Jason Smalley, Stroud.

Nominations for the awards were received from county Farm Bureaus and the OKFB board of directors.

 

Oklahoma City (Feb. 26) – The Oklahoma State Department of Education today announced the launch of a new statewide #GoOpen initiative, joining the inaugural cohort of states across the country committing to support school districts and educators transitioning to the use of high-quality, openly licensed educational resources in their schools.

Oklahoma was recognized for its leadership by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) at the #GoOpen Exchange, a gathering of state and district leaders, education technology platform providers and non-profit organizations working together to help educators transition to using openly licensed educational resources, which can reduce costs for items like textbooks.

Under the commitment, Oklahoma will develop a statewide technology strategy that includes the use of openly licensed resources as a central component, create and maintain a statewide repository of openly licensed resources and collaborate with other #GoOpen states to share learning and professional development resources.

“In order to ensure Oklahoma is offering an education that fully prepares students for college and career, we need to keep up with technology,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said. “Openly licensed resources can be updated regularly, and they reduce overhead for districts, freeing up funds that can directly benefit schoolchildren. The #GoOpen initiative offers districts the chance to collaborate on high-quality resources they might not otherwise have considered.”

Since the launch of #GoOpen, school districts from more than 16 states have worked with innovators from education technology companies, districts and nonprofit organizations who have committed to create new tools and provide professional learning opportunities.

GoOpen

“States are powerful collaborators in supporting and scaling innovation. They can connect forward-thinking educators, share effective ideas and approaches widely, amplify successes and support districts in leveraging limited resources,” said Joseph South, director of the Office of Educational Technology at the USDE.

After the launch of the #GoOpen initiative, participating states will be able to help local districts transition to the new model. Broken Arrow is the first Oklahoma district to pledge to #GoOpen; others are expected to follow.

Openly licensed educational resources have enormous potential not only to empower educators but also increase equitable access to high-quality education opportunities in the United States.

“Switching to openly licensed educational materials has enabled school districts to repurpose funding typically spent on static textbooks for other pressing needs, such as investing in the transition to digital learning,” says Andrew Marcinek, Open Education Advisor at the USDE. “We are excited that Oklahoma is committed to supporting its districts in using openly licensed educational resources.”

For more details on #GoOpen commitments made by states, school districts, and technology companies, visit http://tech.ed.gov/open.

 

Friday, 19 February 2016 10:28

Registration open for booths at Kids Fair

Plans are well under way for the annual Kids Fair for area families, and booth registrations are being accepted for agencies and groups that want to help promote the health, well-being and safety of area children.

This year’s theme for the Kids Fair – formerly known as the Baby Fair – is Let’s Move and Groove. The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Southeast Expo Center on U.S. Highway 270, just west of McAlester.

So far, plans involve booths hosted by:

• McAlester Regional Health Center
• Beekeepers Association
• Caring Hands
• Choctaw Nation
• Girl Scouts of America
• Kiamichi Technology Center
• KiBois
• McAlester Army Ammunition Plant
• McAlester Fire Department
• McAlester Public Library
• Pittsburg County Health Department
• Youth Emergency Shelter

Each booth will offer activities or information benefitting children up to age 12, from Hopscotch and Hula Hoops to vaccinations, photo IDs and information about child safety, CPR and nursing.

Each year, about 800 adults and children attend the fair. There is no cost to attend and all activities are free.

There is no cost to host a booth, although exhibitors are asked to donate a door prize. For a registration form, contact Pat Tolson at the OSU Extension Service at 918-423-4120 or Donna Engleman at 918-426-7351. The deadline to register is March 7.

MRHC is a regional 171-bed general acute care public trust hospital serving a region comprised of eight counties in Southeast Oklahoma. With more than 700 employees, the hospital offers a wide array of clinics, and ancillary and outpatient programs.

By Betty Anderson

In a regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Okmulgee County on February 1, 2016 Emergency Management Director of Okmulgee County, Tim Creighton, reported that Governor Mary Fallin has requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government related to the winter storm, ice, sleet and flooding that began December 26, 2015 that affected more than 50 counties in Oklahoma.

According to the Oklahoma government website, Fallin requested individual assistance for homeowners, renters and business owners in nine counties, as well as public assistance to aid municipalities, counties, rural electric cooperatives and the state with infrastructure repairs and costs associated with responding to the storm in 41 counties.

The nine counties included in the request for individual assistance are: Adair, Cherokee, Delaware, Mayes, McCurtain, Muskogee, Ottawa, Pushmataha andSequoyah.
The 41 counties are included in the request for public assistance are: Adair, Alfalfa, Beckham, Blaine, Caddo, Canadian, Cherokee, Coal, Comanche, Cotton, Craig, Custer, Delaware, Dewey, Grady, Grant, Greer, Harmon, Haskell, Hughes, Jackson, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, Latimer, McCurtain, McIntosh, Major, Mayes, Muskogee, Noble, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Osage, Pittsburg, Pushmataha, Roger Mills, Sequoyah, Tilman, Washita and Woods.

Preliminary assessments indicate 108 homes were destroyed and 99 others were damaged as a result of the storms. Additionally, an estimated $48 million in infrastructure damages and response costs have been identified in these counties.

The storm resulted in power outages for more than 200,000 homes and businesses statewide, numerous road closures and dangerous travel conditions in some areas. The storm is blamed for at least four deaths and 104 injuries.

If approved, additional counties may be added to the request at a later date should conditions warrant.

Fallin was denied in 2015 for her request for two counties, Tulsa and Cleveland for tornadoes, flooding and straight-line winds.  In a letter to Fallin denying her request, FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate says the damage caused by the storms was not beyond the capabilities of the state, local governments and volunteer agencies to handle. The state will see how these winter storms and their effects are viewed by FEMA for these counties.

Free Services Available Through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline


OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. X, 2016) — What would it take for you to quit smokeless tobacco? During Through with Chew Week, Feb. 14-20, the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline encourages smokeless tobacco users to explore the free services offered by the Helpline.

“Quit Coaches at the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline are specially trained to provide smokeless tobacco users with customized Quit Plans to help them be successful,” said Jason, Quit Coach™ for the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline. “We provide a variety of free tools, including free phone and web coaching, free patches, gum or lozenges, text and email support and more.”

According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, smokeless tobacco use has increased steadily since 2004. Several contributing factors include increased advertising by the tobacco industry, the introduction of a wide variety of new smokeless products and flavors at low price points, and marketing messages intended to specifically appeal to current or former smokers. Many smokers switch to smokeless tobacco as a method of quitting smoking, yet it is even more habit forming, containing up to four times the highly addictive nicotine found in cigarettes.hrough With Chew Week

The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, funded by the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), encourages smokeless tobacco users to understand the facts about smokeless tobacco and think about quitting during Through with Chew Week.

Don’t be fooled. Smokeless isn’t harmless. Smokeless Facts:
What harm can smokeless tobacco cause to your body?

• Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals and can cause oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer.
• Sugar in smokeless tobacco may cause decay in exposed tooth roots.
• Dip and chew can cause your gums to pull away from the teeth where the tobacco is held. The gums do not grow back.
• Leathery white patches and red sores in the mouth are common and can turn into cancer.
Why is smokeless tobacco addictive?
• Nicotine, found in all tobacco products, is a highly addictive drug that acts in the brain and throughout the body.
• Dip and chew contain more nicotine than cigarettes.
• Holding an average-size dip in your mouth for 30 minutes gives you as much nicotine as smoking three cigarettes. Someone who dips two cans a week gets as much or more nicotine as a pack-a-day smoker.

“Even if you’ve tried to quit before, it is important to try again and take advantage of the free resources available to you,” said Jennifer Avery, TSET Healthy Living Program Coordinator serving Okmulgee County.

“Shortly after quitting, your health will improve, you’ll have more money in your pocket and, most importantly, you will have more quality time to spend with loved ones.”

Call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit OKhelpline.com to explore all of the free services available to Oklahomans. Connect with the Helpline through social media by liking the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline on Facebook or following @OKhelpline on Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about Through With Chew Week, visit OKhelpline.com/through-with-chew.


The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline is a free service for Oklahomans wanting to quit tobacco. Funding is primarily provided by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma Employees Group Insurance Division and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline has served more than 300,000 Oklahomans since 2003 and was ranked the top quitline for reaching tobacco users seeking treatment in FY2013 by the North American Quitline Consortium.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations working towards shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working with local coalitions and initiatives across the state, by cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and by working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public’s health. TSET – Better Lives Through Better Health. To learn more go to: www.ok.gov/tset.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Monday announced Medicaid fraud charges against a licensed professional counselor from Hugo.

Adeline Youngblood, 26, worked as an LPC in southeastern Oklahoma when she billed for treatment sessions that never occurred. This resulted in a total of $23,921.28 in false Medicaid billing.

Youngblood is charged with two counts of Medicaid fraud, one count of fraudulently obtaining personal identity of other persons and one count of using access to computers to violate Oklahoma statutes. If convicted, Youngblood could face fines up to $125,000 in addition to restitution and up to 16 years in prison.

The AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is the only Oklahoma law enforcement agency dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of Medicaid fraud. The unit also investigates and prosecutes abuse of residents in Medicaid-funded nursing homes and state facilities. To report suspected Medicaid fraud, contact the AG’s Office at (405) 522-2963.

OKLAHOMA CITY (February 1, 2016) –  The American Lung Association is releasing the results of its 14th annual “State of Tobacco Control” report, which tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the federal and state level, assigning grades based on whether laws are protecting citizens from tobacco-caused death and disease. This year’s report also highlights the fact that one in four kids in the U.S. still use tobacco products, and that urgent action is needed by our elected officials to address the tobacco epidemic.

To find a copy of the “State of Tobacco Control 2016” report which will be updated with new data will be available at 12:00 a.m. ET on February 3, 2016 at: stateoftobaccocontrol.org

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing 480,000 people each year. Youth use of other tobacco products like e-cigarettes and little cigars is at an all-time high, and nearly a quarter of high school students use tobacco products.

(OKLAHOMA CITY) The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has announced that an error has been found on some Oklahoma driver licenses and identification cards. The holographic security emblem that should appear on the front of each individual license or card may, in some instances, appear on the back or not at all.

License holders and ID card holders are asked to examine their documents to make sure the image appears on the front. Please see attached image for an example of the correct holographic image.

DPS officials say the licenses and ID cards with incorrect or missing images are still considered valid, but will likely cause delays when the holder attempts to use them for personal identification in places such as airports, banks or federal buildings.

Those who have licenses or ID cards with incorrect images are encouraged to return to the Motor License Agency (Tag Agency) where the document was issued. A corrected license or ID card will be issued at no charge. Individuals are urged to do so at their earliest convenience.

To confirm which tag agency issued the faulty license or ID card, the bearer may check the four-digit number printed at the top right corner of the photograph on the card. The corresponding list of tag agencies is posted on the DPS website at https://www.dps.state.ok.us/dls/motor_license_agents.php.

Public inquiries may be directed to the DPS Driver License Help Desk at 405-425-2020.

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